Iraq: Sunni Arab Diehards Fight to the Death

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August 31, 2006: Combined Iraqi/Coalition police and military operations in Baghdad seem to be yielding excellent results. Two neighborhoods in particular, Mansour and Doura, both formerly hotbeds of insurgent and sectarian violence, are calming down. The massively reinforced troops and police have been concentrating on heavy patrolling, routing out terrorist and illegal militia safe houses, and frequent sweeps to uncover illegal arms caches (though every family is allowed one AK-47 for 'self defense'). This has greatly reduced the incidence of violence, and particularly of sectarian attacks. As a result, the restoration of public services is proceeding. Although the local water supply, sewer system, and electrical grid are not yet working fully, they are working.
The local inhabitants largely supported this process, by quietly aiding the troops and cops with tips on the location of insurgents and arms dumps. Business activity has begun to pick up, reducing unemployment, which further reduces the potential recruiting base for insurgents and militias. But the people are being wary. There is concern that once these districts are declared "clear" of hostile elements, the strong military/police presence will be reduced to a point where the insurgents and militias might return.
But the dozen or so major terrorist groups are still able to find secure areas for their activities. This is because most of the terrorist groups are either clan or tribe based, or religious. If tribal, they can rely on family ties to obtain secure hiding places, and a source of recruits. If religious, the group has one or more mosques, and their congregations, to use for support. Most of the terrorist attacks are against civilians, with the violence reduced to a Sunni-Shia battle for control of the country. The Shia control the government, via the last few elections, and a minority of Sunni Arabs are trying to terrorize the Shia into giving up that control. The Shia have refused to do that, and the government has made amnesty deals with the majority of the Sunni Arab tribes and religious leaders. However, in a pattern seen many times before in this part of the world, the Sunni Arab diehards will fight to the death, killing as many of their Iraqi enemies as they can, along the way.
The government is moving against Shia militias in the south. These are mainly the Sadr (or "Mehdi Army") and Badr groups. The Sadr forces have resisted strongly, causing several battles that have left over a hundred dead. These operations are basically Shia versus Shia, as the army units being used were recruited in the south and are almost entirely Shia. Some Kurdish special operations units are in the south, but these are used sparingly.
After a 30 percent dip last month, U.S. casualties are back to the levels of two months ago. So far this year, there have been about a hundred American casualties (dead and wounded) per week. The recent increase comes mainly from more combat operations against terrorist bases in Sunni Arab areas in western Iraq and Baghdad neighborhoods.

 

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